Why I Switched To Nikon

Before I dig into this post, I want to preface it by saying that this is NOT meant to be a Nikon vs Canon debate. Even though I made the switch, I do not believe that either system is better than the other. I think it completely depends on what your particular needs and budget is. Canon is a fabulous company that has made solid, reliable gear for a long time, and their L lenses are truly an incredible offering. But they just no longer fit my needs. Let me start with a little background...

I've been a Canon user since 2007, when I purchased my first dSLR, a Canon Rebel. At that time, I had zero clue what I was doing. I didn't read any reviews or research any technical specs - I just wanted a "fancy" camera for an upcoming trip, and I walked into Best Buy on a whim and bought one. At that time, I picked Canon because the menu made more sense to me, and I liked the look of it better. That's it.

Since then I have fallen in love with Canon for its ease of use and the L series lenses. Without a doubt, until a few days ago, I was a fervent believer that while Nikon might have an edge on bodies, L glass blew any Nikkor or Sigma out of the water.

Part of me still believes that. I'm pretty brand loyal, and I know that I will always have a soft spot for those red ringed beauties.

But for the last year or so I've been hearing nothing but good things about d750, and reading review after review after review after review of people I admire who made the switch. (here and here, too).

Before I even rented a Nikon setup, though, I took a look at what I was unhappy with when it came to Canon. I wanted to make sure that my current system truly had problems or annoyances, and that I wasn't just being swayed by the thought of something new and exciting.

For me, it came down to three things I've been unhappy with:

  1. The weight of those L lenses. I shoot long, documentary-style sessions, and I try to carry my camera with me all the time for personal work. My current "ideal" Canon set up is the 24L, the 35L, and the 85L, plus a mark 3 body. For a combined weight of just over 7 pounds. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but it gets really heavy, and as a result I find myself not carrying even one lens and body around as much as I'd like. In fact, I've done a fair amount of research on Fuji, thinking a mirrorless system might be better, but everything I've read says that it doesn't quite perform at the level of my current Canon when it comes to low light.
  2. Canon's 85 options. I bought (and sold) Canon's 85 1.8 twice. I wanted to love it, but I was never happy with the image quality. Last year I purchased the 85L, and while it has the image quality I dreamed of, it is insanely heavy, a bit slow, and generally not a great lens for my documentary style. I even gave the 135L and 70-200 2.8 a try, hoping that either of them would be a good longer focal length replacement for the 85. But while the 135L was light, it didn't suit my style and was too long. I thought the 70-200 might be a good replacement for the 85L, since it is just as heavy but would have more focal options. Still not a good fit, though, as 200 is way to tight for me, and I'm not a zoom person. The 85 focal length is definitely my preferred longer focal length, but Canon doesn't have a lens that meets my needs in that range.
  3. I've also not been very happy with the auto focus, especially in low light conditions, which is how I shoot an awful lot. Even my trusty 35L would hunt more than I liked. I chalked it up to normal technology limitations, because I do push the limits of low light in my work, but in the back of my mind I always felt that a nearly $4k body/lens combo should be doing a better job.

Enter the d750. All the things you've heard about its low light, high ISO capabilities and insane dynamic range are true. But I actually prefer deep shadows and I like grain, so this bit wasn't what got to me, although it is impressive.

What got to me was that the d750 and the Nikkor line perfectly addresses my 3 issues:

  1. Nikon has a fabulous set of 1.8 options in it's 24, 35, and 85, all FAR superior to Canon's 1.8 versions. Are they quite as good as Canon's L lenses? Eh. Probably not, but I am not much for pixel peeping, and as much as I love the idea of 1.4 and 1.2, I know that being able to go that low is not good for the technical quality of my work. I have a bad habit of shooting wide open, and I miss focus a lot because of it. And the lightness of those 1.8s! My new Nikon set up weighs only 3.8 pounds. That is a weight savings of nearly HALF! Which means that I can keep this set up and enjoy carrying it around more, or add a fourth lens to my kit for less weight than my Canon set up was. That is a really big deal for me.
  2. Nikon's 85 1.8 is killer. It is exactly the in-between option I was looking for, between the cheap Canon 1.8 and the insanely heavy 1.2. And if I end up upgrading to Nikon's 1.4 eventually, it's still a weight savings of nearly a pound.
  3. The d750's ability to focus is incredible. It is fast, trustworthy, and I am amazed at how many more shots I have as keepers now. It was really affirming to see that my missed focus and frustrations of not being able to lock in were a result of gear, and not just me.

So yes, after 8 years of loyal, fangirl level adoration for Canon, I'm making the switch.

For the last couple years I said that Canon's glass is so outstanding that I would never leave, but I'm standing here letting all those red rings go, and happily. What matters most to me is that I have the best gear for me, it really shouldn't matter who makes it, as long as it is good. And for my needs, right now that gear is Nikon. If Canon leapfrogs Nikon in a few years, as the two companies often do, I will happily switch back if it suits my needs at that time.

As much as we like to say we are "Team Nikon" or "Team Canon", really we should be "Team Gets The Job Done Best."

That said, if I were a more traditional portrait photographer, I would likely stick with Canon and it's L series, and hope that the Mark IV has some serious autofocus and dynamic range improvements. I may come around to this one eventually, too, but I still think that nothing beats an L lens. I'm just tired of carrying them around.

A couple things were icing on the cake for me:

  • I use live view a fair bit to get low or unusual perspectives, and I have always HATED how badly the focus works in Canon's live view. I almost always switch to manual for that, because it just hunts and hunts and hunts and I miss the shot. Nikon's is incredibly fast, I hardly notice a difference between regular shooting and live view.
  • Also because I use live view, I really like the flip out screen a lot more than I expected to. I'm pretty good at guessing what to point at if I don't have my camera right at my eye, but I still miss focus often. With the flip screen, that isn't an issue anymore. And before I got my hands on the s750, I totally thought the flip screens were silly and amateurish. But I'm sold.
  • I'm not super in love with the overall look and ergonomics of Nikon, but I do have pretty small hands, and I like the smaller body so much more for that reason. My hand used to cramp after a long day of shooting and I'd get a hot spot on my finger from gripping it all day, and I don't think that will be the case with the Nikon. Although my husband, with his much larger hands, commented that he feels like the camera feels like a toy. Luckily, I didn't buy it for him. ;)
  • the d750 has an incredible focus option called 3D autofocus - it basically lets you focus/recompose, and then IT toggles for you as you move to recompose. Even though I'm pretty good with understanding how focal planes move when you recompose, I adore that added level of security, without having to manipulate an extra button.

And, there are a couple things that I think will take a lot to get used to, and *almost* kept me a Canon shooter:

  • I do not like the look of Nikon. I know it's a silly reason, but the bodies are kind of ugly, and there are way too many dials and buttons on the outside. And the ISO button is in a really silly place.
  • I DEEPLY miss Canon's click wheel on the back. That was almost a deal breaker for me, I love it so much. I know that where the buttons are will just take some getting used to, but even when I get there I just can't imagine every loving all those options on the body.That said, even after years of shooting manual with a Canon, I've never developed the muscle memory quite right. I still to this day try to dial in shutter speed and aperture backwards, and I'm happy to say that Nikon's dials in that regard make more sense to me. One of the reviews I read called the Canon a Mac to Nikon's PC, and I think that is the perfect way to describe it.
  • I don't like that I can only use SD cards. I really like the size of CF cards, plus it's an annoying added expense to have to replace all of them.
  • The image color. It just isn't as pretty as Canon color. I'm working on making some in-camera adjustments that I hope help, but I am a little worried I'll never get those creamy skin tones and beautiful straight out of camera color again. Luckily, I shoot a lot of black and white.
  • I do acknowledge that I downgraded my lenses. There is no doubt that while the Nikkor 1.8s are better than Canon's 1.8s, they are not as good as the L series. But remember that one of my biggest annoyances is weight, and for the *weight* they are worth it to *me*.

So, will I miss the L lenses? Because I know that every Canon person reading this will say "but the glass!!!!". Yes, I will. Definitely. But I will not miss their weight, and I have to admit that the red rings became a point of pride for me. They represented how far I'd come and how much gear I had amassed, and they really have nothing to do with how good a photographer I am, nor do they serve the purposes I actually need. And if I am being *really* honest, I have to admit that I think I love them so much for all the wrong reasons. And that is a terrible reason to keep thousands of dollars worth of gear, if that gear isn't serving the right purpose.

I also want to address the other thing I hear a lot - that you are too invested in one system or the other. Obviously I can't speak to your particular situation, but to stay with one set of gear because you are "too invested" might not be as true as you think. This stuff is expensive. I get it. It's taken me years and lots of trading up to get to where I am now. But this gear also retains its value really well. My particular switch didn't cost me a dime - in fact once I have everything sold, I should come out at least $1500 ahead. I know that in my particular case I downgraded lenses a bit, but even if I had bought the 1.4 versions of everything, I would only be out of pocket about $1000. But the thing is, I have all brand new gear. With the exception of the very first Rebel and 50 1.4 I bought way back when, I have never owned new gear. It's always been used or refurbished.

So now not only will I have brand new professional gear for the first time, I also have new warranties to go with it. If I had stuck with Canon, eventually I would need to replace stuff. Even if I kept all the same glass, but upgraded to Mark 4 when it eventually comes out, it would likely cost me at least $2k, and that is just to upgrade my body, not everything else. Our gear is an investment, but like anything, it wears out over time and you may want to replace it for newer options or better features. So stick with Canon (or Sony, or Fuji, or Nikon) if it's truly the best system for you, but have an open mind. Don't let the cost alone deter you either way.

I promise you, if you had told me even a week ago I was about to switch, I would have told you that you were crazy. But, here I am. With an open mind, and a whole lot of brand new gear that meets *my* needs perfectly. And the minute it starts not doing what I need, and a better option comes my way, I'll happily switch again. #teamgetsthejobdonebest


Kate Densmore4 Comments